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The city

Bangladesh’s capital city, Dhaka, is located along the Buriganga River. With an estimated population of seven million, not only is Dhaka Bangladesh’s largest city, it is also among the world’s most densely populated. Its booming economy has come with numerous infrastructural improvements in recent years. Yet social life in Dhaka continues to be marked by vast disparities of wealth between rich and poor.  Informal settlements proliferate around the city with large numbers of people living in close proximity in fragile urban environments.

The communities

The research team are working in three communities, Bhola, Ershadnagar and Balakar More. These settlements are built on environmentally fragile land and when the monsoon season hits each year, many residents must live with flood waters in their homes. These areas also have limited sanitation. Families are crammed into small shelters with narrow walkways separating them. From the air it is almost impossible to see where one shelter ends and another begins as the roofs overlap, covering the passageways between them.

Drivers of migration

Rural people are driven to the city both for economic reasons and by extensive riverine erosion and frequent cyclonic activity along the southern coast. Bhola slum was formed almost 50 years ago when people moved to Dhaka after a cyclone devastated the Bhola district in 1970. Families in rural communities will often supplement their incomes by sending younger family members to Dhaka to pull rickshaws or to work in construction or the garment sector.